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Controversial ordinance tabled at city council meeting

January 24, 2019 GMT

An ordinance that failed to pass in December was back up for consideration at Monday night’s city council meeting, but the future of the proposed ordinance remains uncertain as the council voted to table the issue.

The controversial ordinance would significantly expand the boundaries of the North Fork of the Elkhorn River overlay district, which would set mainly aesthetic guidelines for new property near the banks of the river.

The proposal was revived because the council did not follow proper parliamentary procedure when the original vote was conducted, according to Norfolk Mayor Josh Moenning and Danielle Myers-Noelle, city attorney. The original vote was 4-3 in favor, but five votes are needed to pass an ordinance and the mayor was not permitted to cast a vote.

By state statute, the mayor is allowed to cast a vote if it is needed to establish a majority.

Moenning, who supports the expansion, said crafting the ordinance has been months in the making and the current proposal has been carefully crafted.

“This has not been a hasty process,” Moenning said. “We’ve had town hall meetings, met with residents and had opportunities for public input.”

Council member Jim Lange, who previously voted in opposition to the ordinance, said he believed the ordinance is not well thought out.

“I haven’t really seen a reason why this needs to happen,” Lange said.

Council member Shane Clausen said he supported aspects of the proposal, saying that it may help businesses in the area but it may be a burden on homeowners in the affected area.

“I’m not entirely comfortable with how this has been proposed and what it means for homeowners,” Clausen said.

Clausen called for more discussion within council subcommittees and suggested tabling the matter.

The council eventually did unanimously vote to table the matter for a later date. Another ordinance on the agenda dealing with the overlay district also was tabled.

The council also discussed a number of other matters, including a plan to grow business in Norfolk.

City administrator Andy Colvin spoke to the council about a proposed agreement between the city and the Greater Norfolk Economic Development Foundation to establish a fund to purchase an area for new and expanding businesses.

Under the agreement, the city and the foundation will each contribute $300,000 to purchase an area for both new and existing businesses in Norfolk to expand.

“There are businesses that are not in or don’t have the proper space to expand and grow,” Colvin said.

Colvin also said many cities in Nebraska, both larger and smaller than Norfolk, already utilize these kinds of agreements to help business grow.

The proposed agreement was passed unanimously.

The council also approved a contract for engineering services for reconstruction on Benjamin Avenue in the coming years. The contract includes a project fee of just under $1 million.

The project will ultimately cost about $10 million total, but Moenning said the investment is needed now, and Benjamin Avenue has been cited as an area in need of reconstruction.

The council also discussed sidewalk waivers, a community development grant and a sewer construction project.